- By Shin Min
Myanmar has 12.25 million hectares of sown acreage, and the agriculture sector contributes 24 per cent to the nation’s GDP and 30 per cent to the exports. Despite the government’s all-out efforts for the improvement of the lives of the farmers of the agro-based country, there is no steady crop market yet.
Interest of farmers
“The government is providing loans and technology for farmers, and the farmers are working hard. But there is a market problem, and the need for price instability. So there should be a firm market for farmers,” said peasant U Win Bo of Minbu Township, Magway Region.
The voice of farmers reached the parliament. At the 12th regular session of the second Pyithu Hluttaw, U Win Win of Minbu constituency tabled a motion, saying, “List of crops with firm marker should be announced season-wise or annually. There must be harmonious cooperation between the government and the people for producing marketable crops.” The proposal of U Win Win was supported by seven MPs, and later approved by the Hluttaw.
A stable market
In his discussion in support of the motion, U Than Lin Lin of Maese Constituency said, We are an agro-based country with suitable weather and soil for many kinds of crops species. But sadly, farmers are facing an unreliable market. So the government should find local and foreign crop markets for them.
The MP told the Lower House about the experiences of farmers of his constituency. He said, “After rice Maese farmers grow garlic. Thailand was the main buyer of garlic till 2014. So the garlic business was brisk then. But the demand dropped during the period between 2015 and 2019. Now there is no garlic market at all for local farmers. The main crops of hill regions including northern and central parts of Shan State were watermelon and maize since a decade ago. Neighbouring China is the main importer. Farmers were happy to see their thriving large watermelon fileds, expecting huge profits from the exports of the fruits. Unfortunately, there were a lot of watermelon trucks at the Muse border gate, and they had nowhere to go as there was no alternate market. The main buyer was paying the price which was too low. Farmers are regularly
facing this kind of trend for a long time. In fact, it is the bad outcome of an unreliable market,” said U Sai Maung Pwint of Tangyan Constituency.
The Ministry of Commerce is implementing a market that is favourable for the sellers. In October 2017 General Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ) of China issued an announcement on the legal permission of the export of certain kinds of fruits from Myanmar through maritime routes or border points. The Myanmar Embassy in China has been instructed to consult with General Administration of Customs of China (GACC) for the legal export of crops to the giant neighbour.
Up to March in fiscal year 2018-2019, Myanmar exported over US$ 1.7 billion worth of agro-products, according to the Ministry of Commerce. The ministry is boosting national economic growth through export promotion. The government has also laid down a policy to triple the volume of exports.
The Ministry of Commerce has adopted the National level Strategic Development Plan, while reducing formalities, and encouraging the private businesses for export promotion.
“I have heard that the Ministry of Commerce has adopted the National Strategic Development Plan, while reducing formalities, and encouraging the private businesses for export promotion. Adversely, all those measures are producing backward tend as there are farmers facing hardships in their life. During Thingyan holidays, I visited residents of rural areas. According to their presentation, their main problem was that China was not buying all their maize. Tons of maize remained unsold in my constituency. They wanted to know how the problem would be solved,” said U Sia Oo Hkam, in explaining the situation of his Hsenwi Constituency in support of the motion.
The parliamentary session also suggested the relevant ministry to invite foreign investments, open buying centres at the suitable towns, encourage farmers to grow marketable crops, and facilitate the harmonious cooperation between the government and the people for progress of the agriculture sector.
Plight of bean farmers
Myanmar is also a beans and pulses exporter. So farmers want a steady market for the crops. India, China, Indonesia, Japan and European countries are buying beans and pulses from Myanmar. But 80 per cent of Myanmar beans and pulses go to India. So Myanmar is relying on India for its beans and pulse exports. When India made restrictions on Myanmar beans and pulses exports in August 2017, farmers faced losses.
Farmers stopped growing pigeon pea, when there was a sharp drop in the prices. So, there was no pigeon pea for export, amidst the rising prices this year, said U Win Myint Aung of Debayin Constituency, in supporting the motion tabled by U Win Win.
The MP also pointed out the importance of harmonious cooperation between the government and the people for producing quality crops that had ready markets in accordance with the motion.
The Agriculture Department announced the points of good agriculture practice (GAP) for 15 crops including rice, corn, groundnut, beans and pulses, mango, cucumber, watermelon, avocado, chili, union and coffee.
The Ministry of Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation is conducting lab test on the crops to give recommendation.
National Export Strategy
The Ministry of Commerce adopted the National Export Strategy for fetching reasonable prices for crops in the international market and ensuring a stable internal and external market
“The volume of the work of producing marketable crops on national scale is enormous. Phase by phase develop of the work is required. But there still remain gaps,” said Deputy Minister for Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation U Hla Kyaw in clarifying the topic.
“Transparent plans in connection with growing marketable crops should be made public for enabling farmers to choose the suitable crops,” suggested U Tun Tun of Pwintbyu Constituency.
The socioeconomic condition of people in rural areas, who make up 70 per cent of the nation’s population, must be improved through introducing quality crops and identifying stable markets.
(Translated by TMT)